Alexandre Aja’s High Tension

Two college students named Alexia (Maiwenn) and Marie (Cecile DeFrance) are traveling to Alexia’s home in the French countryside so they can study in peace. As they ride along on the sunny day they discuss their lives, boys and sex, you know, the usual girl chat. Flash to a truck parked in an empty lot. We see a woman giving oral pleasure to a man. We hear a grunt and her severed head is thrown out the window onto the ground.

Later on when it gets dark, Alexia stops to goto the bathroom on the side of the road. She gets out and goes into a cornfield. When Marie doesn’t see her return, she gets out to look around, but suddenly she hears the car start up and drive off. As she runs after, she sees it’s just Alexia playing one of her dumb tricks on her. She gets in and they head off to her parents home.

When they arrive, Alexia introduces Marie to her father, mother and little brother. She then shows Marie where she’ll be staying. Alexia’s father returns to his den to finish his work and Alexia decides to take a shower. Marie heads outside for a cigarette. As she sits in the yard on a swing, she sees Alexia washing herself. She decides to goto bed where she puts her Walkman on and listens to some reggae type music which plays loudly. Then she begins to masterbate.

The old truck the man was driving earlier heads towards the house and as Marie continues to pleasure herself, we get shots of the truck intercut with her excitement. The truck suddenly comes to a stop at the front of the house with the headlights on. This is where the tension begins to build. The doorbell starts to ring and Alexia’s father goes to answer it. When he opens the door, the mysterious man knifes him in the hands and the extreme sudden shock is felt. He stumbles to the staircase and tries to climb up to warn the others, but the trucker steps on his head and pushes it through the bannister of the staircase. He then pushes a heavy table towards the father’s head and slams it hard, thus taking his head right off. The blood squirts out like a garden hose!

Marie begins to panic as she overhears the screams. She gets an idea to make her bed as to give no clue there’s another guest in the house. The mysterious trucker then moves around the house where he finds Alexia and binds and gags her. While the man searches the room, Marie hides under her bed covering her mouth tightly. When the trucker leaves, she runs into Alexia’s parents room where she hides in a closet. She sees Alexia’s mother run into the room, but the trucker grabs her from behind and slits her throat with a straight razor causing a massive gush of dark blood to pour out. Meanwhile, Marie is freaking out hard as she witnesses the gruesome carnage taking place from behind the closet door (this sequence will surely have you jumping out of your skin). Alexia’s little brother runs out into the cornfield adjacent to the farmhouse, he runs screaming for his “mommy” which makes you feel sad for the poor kid. Marie watches as the trucker grabs a shotgun and goes after the boy.

The trucker puts Alexia in his truck and Marie manages to get a butcher knife from the house and climb aboard to tell Alexia she’s going to help her. As the trucker makes his way towards the cab, Marie gets ready to stab him, but instead of checking on Alexia, the trucker slides the door shut. The trucker takes off down the road with Alexia and Marie trapped in the back. The trip into terror is just beginning as Marie struggles to help Alexia escape from the psycho.

I had heard that High Tension was a great horror film, but these days, the word “great” gets tossed around an awful lot. There were things I really loved in it and other things that I didn’t like at all. What I enjoyed most was the relentless gore (by FX Master Gianetto DeRossi), the direction, cinematography and music. Another thing I appreciated is how it does a great French spin on the American slasher genre. The problem was the “pull it out of yer ass” psychological twist which just ruined it for me. One minute I was watching this intense, gory horror film and thinking “this is too good to be true”, then, well, it WAS. There are actual clues throughout the film that connect to the twist (which I won’t spoil) that you may pick up on, but still, it just was a really weak idea in my opinion.



Editor-In-Chief of The Grindhouse Cinema Database/Furious Cinema contributor. Pete is a rabid movie geek who enjoys everything from wild n' crazy exploitation/cult flix to big budget mainstream classics. His other interests include: graphic design, cartooning and music.

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